Australia gives nod to China trade deal

THE Australian Senate yesterday passed two pieces of legislation relating to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), clearing the final hurdle to the deal’s enactment.

Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb said Australian businesses are “another step closer” to realizing the opportunities created by the agreement.

“The government has worked hard to ensure the agreement with our biggest trading partner goes into force before the end of the year, and today’s vote marks a significant milestone in that process,” he said.

The enactment will “see an immediate round of tariff cuts, followed by a second round on January 1, allowing the benefits ... to flow quickly to Australian exporters and consumers,” he said.

The two pieces of legislation passed yesterday were the Customs Amendment Bill and Customs Tariff Amendment Bill. They were approved by the House of Representatives last month.

Following the vote, Robb acknowledged the support of the opposition Labor Party, which had previously objected to the deal over concerns about visa regulations surrounding foreign projects.

By bringing in workers from China, companies would be able to pay them less, it had said.

The new legislation will ensure that Australian workers are offered jobs first, and that any workers brought in from China must be licensed and fairly paid as not to undermine Australian pay rates, conditions and standards.

Shadow Trade Minister Penny Wong said yesterday that the legislation required in order for ChAFTA to be approved in Australia would simultaneously protect Australian workers and conditions, while also “delivering jobs” and scope for businesses to grow in the future.

ChAFTA will also result in the removal of a number of tariffs, such as those on Australian beef, dairy and wine entering China, while Australians will have access to cheaper Chinese goods, such as electrical products and homeware.

“The agreement will enter into force when Australia and China have both completed their domestic treaties ... and we’re working with China for this to happen as soon as possible,” Robb said.

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